DEVONPORT Services will be playing in South West One next season after securing promotion by beating Bristol side Chew Valley 22-12 away in the Western Counties play-off.
Since the introduction of league rugby, Services have spent a large majority of their time in Western Counties West.
They did drop out of the division a couple of times in the early 2000s, but they have been in the league consecutively for the last 12 years.
They have been close a number of times in the last few years to getting promoted to level six, but just have not quite managed it.
However, they have done it now, much to the delight of everyone at the well-known club.
“Everyone has worked so hard since last July,” said Services team manager Kieran Leach. “Promotion was our target. We have done it the hard way via the play-offs, but it is just a relief to have finally completed it. Everyone is so happy.”
He added: “We had a little bad spell this season but we managed to stay in there. When we lost we didn’t lose by a lot of points and were able to pick up bonus points here and there. It showed we weren’t a bad side, just losing by odd points here and there.
“And we are where we wanted now and let’s see what happens.”
Services were 19-0 up against Chew, but after picking up a couple of yellow cards the hosts closed to within seven points to set up a nervous ending.
“It was only the last 20 minutes where it became squeaky bum time,” said Leach. “Up until then we were quite comfortable. Our defence was excellent.”
Chew threw everything at Services in the first 10 minutes, but Services defended well and on their first real attack were awarded a penalty that Matty Anstis kicked.
As half-time drew close, Services scored the game’s first try. After getting a penalty they went for the corner. From the resultant line-out they drove before going down the blindside and flanker Joe Page crossed the whitewash and was also able to run in under the posts for an easy conversion for Anstis.
And it got better for Services as just before the break they were awarded a penalty, which Anstis kicked to give his side a 13-0 lead.
After half-time, Devonport got two quick penalties which Anstis put over to put the visitors 19-0 up.
Services, though, took their foot of the gas slightly and allowed Chew back into the game.
Flanker Joe Semple was sin-binned after the referee had warned Services for the amount of penalties they were giving away. From the resultant penalty, Chew opted for a scrum and scored.
A couple of minutes later replacement Jack Martin was also sin-binned, even though it was not him who gave away the penalty. Chew again scored from a scrum to make it 19-12.
With time running out tempers flared and Services hooker Sam Bennett was sin-binned but Chew had a player sent off. When the dust settled, the referee awarded Services a penalty, which they kicked to seal the match.
The 78-0 win over Tavvy allowed the Ashes to relax and concentrate on next weekend’s RFU Senior Vase final at Twickenham.
The Ashes knew it was highly unlikely that leaders Wellington were going to lose and not even pick up a bonus point at home to bottom side Torrington, which was the only way they could win the title. As it was Wellington won 75-3 to finish top.
So Saltash used the game in Bude to give opportunities to some fringe players.
They did take the lead when Liall Honey broke and fed Nick Blake to score.
But fifth-placed Bude hit back with two tries to go 14-5 ahead. A Blake penalty reduced that to 14-8, but the hosts then went 33-8 ahead.
Sam Snell and Brett Jemnison scored tries to make it 33-20, but Bude had the last word with a late converted try.
Plymstock Albion Oaks ended their league season with an entertaining 34-29 win at second-from-bottom Wessex.
After winning the Lockie Cup and Ellis Trophy in midweek, it was a good end to the year for Oaks.
However, after 20 minutes in Exeter on Saturday it looked like they could be facing an embarrassing defeat. They found themselves 22-0 down to the hosts, before scoring 34 unanswered points.
“We didn’t really go with the right mind-set,” admitted player-coach Callum Cload.
“I think we just wanted to get it over and done with and tick the box. Wessex were fully up for it. They had a really good pack and put some scores on early.
“But they ran out of steam really and we started to use our backs a bit.
“It was tight and entertaining but we came out with five points and ticked that box.
“It ended a rather a good season in many way, I would say.”
What particularly pleased Cload is that they achieved the win with a lot of young players in their squad and others playing out of position.
“We used a few colts and they were brilliant,” said Cload. “Our strength in depth is definitely getting there.”
Joe Brearley scored two tries for Oaks, with fellow backs Lance Davies, Cload and Joe Rider also touching down.
Plymouth Argaum had a final day to forget with a 107-7 loss at fourth-placed Honiton.
Argaum were desperately struggling to get a team to travel to east Devon for the rearranged fixture and at one point it looked like they might have to hand their hosts a walkover.
They could have done that and played a friendly and avoided a large defeat, but, to Argaum’s credit, they opted to take part in a competitive match, despite having to field many second team and veteran players.
“We could have handed walkovers to both Honiton and Withycombe, but we opted to fulfil the fixtures, which was the right thing to do,” said secretary Stuart Quarterman.
“At the end of the day we have finished ninth in the table, which was our objective at the start of the season.”
Argaum actually started okay and they were only 12-7 down after 15 minutes with Al Murray scoring an early try, which he converted. But their makeshift team were no match for a Honiton, who feature former Championship player Nathan Hannay in their team.